IndyCar Series: Meijer Indy 300 presented by Coca-Cola and Secret
Topics: Meijer Indy 300 presented by Coca-Cola and Secret
Sam Hornish, Jr.
August 13, 2006
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by race winner Sam Hornish. His second victory at Kentucky Speedway, his fourth victory of the season, he's tied with Helio Castroneves for most wins this season in the league, and his record 18th career Indy Car Series career win. Sam is now back atop the IRL Championship points standings. Talk about your day a little bit.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: We just had an unbelievable day. The car handled real well. We could move in and out of traffic. We had only really one hiccup, which is when we pitted and the yellow flag came out. We had to work our way up through the traffic and the car was very good. Couldn't ask for anything more. The Marlboro Team Penske crew gave me marvelous pit stops. Two things won the race today: One thing was patience and the other thing was pit stops that the guys gave me.
Q. Talk about going into Sonoma?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: We only have one race to go from there. Hopefully I'll be able to do well there. I haven't had the results obviously that I'd like to have on the road courses. But do I look at this: This is only my sixty IndyCar race on a road course that I'm coming up on and it's also only the seventh one I've done in the past seven years, the seventh road course race. I have worked very hard to try to get ourselves there. I think that if I am patient and we don't have any problems, I think there's no reason we shouldn't be in the Top 3, and I think that includes winning.
But, you know, obviously, there's some really tough competition out there. I just need to go out there and make sure I keep Helio in my sights or keep him in my mirrors, one of the two, and hopefully we'll be able to get out of there at least seven points up, or anything, anything within contention. I think that going into Chicago, a place that I love to race at, I feel that we've got a great opportunity to win this championship.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: We had a really good car on the restarts. We picked out pretty much the perfect gears for doing the restarts, and as when we came up to speed, I was able to get up besides Scott and to get around him. I didn't think I was going to be able to pull that far away from him, but the car just handled and we were fast when we needed to be and we saved fuel when we needed to.
Q. The last pit stop?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: It was pretty good. I don't know what happened to Dan but we came in together, and I left. The pit exit lane was tremendously slippery. It was bumpy and the car was sliding around quite a bit. And to go from the racing surface, which has been ground and grooved to pretty much, you know, untouched asphalt throughout the pit exit lane. It's pretty slick, and there was also a lot of grass there from when Ed Carpenter spun earlier. It was tough to get out of there.
As far as the actual stop goes, with the problems we had at Indy, the whole team has kind of took it upon themselves to try to figure out how make all of the pieces to so that we have enough gap so that we don't get anything stuck in there; that everything works properly. And, you know, the fueler and the whole pit screw has been doing an awesome job. I think that's really part of what won us this race today.
Q. What have you been doing -- inaudible?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I've done everything from running shifter cars to running -- I went to a Jim Russell school last year, just, you know, I didn't go to any of the class parts of it but they allowed me to drive the car. It's kind of hard. Then when we first started, found out that we were going to do it a couple of seasons ago when we were still able to test; we did some road course testing on the Indy cars. I think just the seat time, getting that rust off at the beginning of it, haven't had that opportunity to do too much lately because we've been pretty busy, but I think that I definitely need some more work with it.
You know, the biggest thing is just the seat time, getting through those races. I look at, you know, what Helio has probably had over 70 road course starts, so I'm a little bit behind him in that category. I think I'm getting closer and hopefully will get to a point where I'm a threat at each one of the road courses that we go through.
Q. After what happened -- inaudible?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I was really determined to win the Michigan race. It wasn't very fun to have to think about it for two weeks on why we lost 38 points to the new leader.
I think that while Helio and I don't really push each other quite hard, it's kind of hard to sit there and watch him go out and wins race when my car is not running, and there's nothing I can do about it.
I just went out there today, I was patient when I needed to be, and, you know, I was aggressive when I needed to be as well and everything worked out well. We had a great car, and you know, we've been pretty happy. I mean, the races that we finished and haven't had any problems, we've been right up there every time. It's the ones that get overzealous or we have something break on the car, those are the ones that we don't seem to do well.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: You know, it means a lot. We came into this weekend, I've been trying not to concede anything to Helio. I knew he had a little bit of an opportunity to do well. He started on the pole, and, you know, I knew he was going to be quick. I didn't really know if we were going to have enough to beat him. And after running about 10 laps around him, I thought if we can position this right, we don't have any problems. We have an opportunity to beat him. We now need to do so enough that we gain some extra points out of it, as well.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: It was pretty intense the whole race, actually. You know, that's kind of the story of the season. It's been the four of us out there battling along. You know, none of us want to concede anything because we know that those are the next three guys or the three guys that are around you for the points championship. Not only are we fighting for race wins, for poles, we're fighting for the championship.
That's the big key for all of us, after you get past Indy, you know the guy who has won Indy, all you can think about is, how do I win the championship and how do I win races to do that. We're all fighting tooth-and-nail, and hopefully I'll figure out the right combination at the end to keep all three of them behind me.
Q. You talked about the patience, is that something -- inaudible?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: You know, I don't know what the exact thing is, you know, the Ganassi cars have been pretty quick. I don't know if they are taking more chances to be up there. But, you know, I'm running pretty hard. I'm running pretty much 100% the whole race.
So I don't know what the exact difference is, but I do know that with how minimal it is, and the fact that, you know, they have had some races that -- Helio and I both having four wins, and they are still right there in the championship, they are doing something right. They just haven't, you know, kicked that next little bit to get into victory lane more often, and hopefully they won't.
Q. When you passed Scott for the lead, how close was it?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. They told me clear. So I could see his front wing in my mirror and I knew that I was around him. I gave him even a little bit extra, and you know, I came down. There's no point in running all the way around the outside of the track. I didn't do it abruptly. I just came down at a little bit at a time so that, you know, I don't want to disadvantage my competitor at all by taking the air off of him.
So I was just kind of -- tried to be smart about that, plus I knew Helio was right up there beside him, too, or close to him, so I didn't want any problems to happen back there. I felt that everything was as clean as it possibly could be, and couldn't ask for anything more. I mean, everything turned out just the way we needed it to.
Q. Inaudible -- doing reps at 250 miles an hour, what's that like?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I'll answer the first one first. I do think that we had enough to beat him. Could I have passed him like I passed Dixon? I don't think so. I think the reason that Dixon got up there and got running with us was because Dan and I were running side by side. I think if it came down to it, I would have had to time it right. I would have never passed him all the way, I don't believe, unless we got to a point where we got into traffic. But I think that I would have beat him at the line. I had it pretty much timed to where I had to pull out to pass him to make a line ahead of him. That's all you have to win by. It wouldn't have been nearly as comfortable as what it was at the end, and being the third guy on the outside, I thought for a little while it was the smart thing to do because I thought I was going to be able to slingshot around both of them and go from third to first right auto way. I soon realized that wasn't going to be the case, and I backed out of him again and then all of a sudden I found myself out there again and thought, what am I doing.
But I just got back in behind Dan, tried it help push him around Bryan, and get Bryan the next lap. So I think, you know, it's just really one of those things where you can try it once, you try it twice, but if it doesn't work the first two times, it's probably not worth trying it a third time.
Q. How much does this final remind you of 2002?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: For me it reminds me a lot of '02 because I came from behind. I think I actually took the points lead here from Helio or Gil, up with of the two, that year, and then I lost it back at the next race and then I somehow got it back later on.
Hopefully we have it for good right now. In '03, by this time, only the second race that we had the new engine, the new generation four engine, so we were at this point I think like 70-some points behind the leaders.
It was win or you didn't have a chance to win the championship, and we went into the last race, 19 points behind with an opportunity to win, and the engine blew up. But it remind me a lot of that, but I think it's starting to -- as far as right at the end of today, it's starting to, you know, open up just a little bit, but you know, it's still tough. Scott and Dan are not that far back. It doesn't really give us an opportunity to make any mistakes, having those guys as close as they are. But it has opened up just a little bit.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Definitely from 2000 when I led my first laps here and basically, you know, what I was doing that day, instead of doing interviews and all this stuff, I was getting told that I was getting the opportunity to drive the Pennzoil panther car. That's a pretty special moment.
Then to win here in '03 for the first time, and now today, I figure whatever it is, every three years, I have something pretty special happier. It's great, I have a lot of fun racing here. We have a whole bunch of fans from northwest Ohio, from all over Ohio that come down here. If I was going to say what's the two places that draw the most amount of Sam Hornish fans, it's probably Michigan and Kentucky. I don't know if it's even in that order. It's fun to come down here.
And I've won here, haven't won at Michigan yet, so turning out to be a little bit more special and maybe we'll get a win there some days.
Q. Hitting the gas -- inaudible -- to get up front?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, there's two negatives to me not winning the championship. If Helio wins, I don't get Rogers his first championship in the IRL. If Scott and Dan win, then they are two-time championships, and that takes away something that I have that nobody else has right now. I'd like to make it that I'm the only three-time champion. And that's the positive outcome of the three, I guess.
And I just -- I mean, I'd like to have a much bigger gap over Helio. I know that if we had not had the problem in Michigan, we'd be at least another 20 points ahead of him, even if we finished second to him there. Having 27 points at this time would be really good. You know, you can say ifs all day long; if I had not run into the wall at Nashville, we'd be even better. But that's part of the deal. That's part of this championship run. That's part of how things are going to turn out.
I think that you know, we just need to keep doing forward with it. We've got an awesome chance to win at Sonoma and to get out there have with a real good finish. I just need to keep my head on me and just not make any mistakes.
Q. You talk about how much you like -- inaudible?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well I think that of the mile-and-a-half ovals, everybody calls them cookie cutters, this one doesn't fit right into that category. A lot of times a place like Texas that has more banking like here; the way Vegas is going to be, more banking than here as well; also Kansas even has a little bit more.
This is fairly flat. The cars slide around. It's probably one of the bumpier track that is we run at and while all of those things people with say were bad, it maybes me excited to come here, because I know it's harder to get the cars set up just right to be able to win the race. I think that's one of the most fun things about it for me, the challenge.
THE MODERATOR: All right, Sam. Thank you very much.
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